Kiwi rider goes from back brace to track cycling world champ
BERLIN (AP) — Corbin Strong was laid up in a back brace two years ago, stitches holding together a gaping wound in his leg. He had been training on a back road when a car crash knocked him out of cycling for two months.
On Friday, the 19-year-old New Zealander was standing on the top step of the world championships podium.
Strong lapped the field early in the points race on Day Three of the track cycling worlds at the Berlin Velodrome, then maintained his lead with crucial points in the intermediate sprints. He capped his dominant ride by shaking loose with Sebastian Mora and Victor Manakov to lap the field again just before the end of the race to win the gold medal.
“I can’t wait to call my parents and talk to my brother and sister. It’s pretty special for me,” said Strong, who already had won a silver medal as part of the Kiwis pursuit team. “They’re all watching. I come from a small town at the bottom of New Zealand and everybody is just going to be so happy for me.”
Mora took his second consecutive silver medal for Spain while Roy Eefting of the Netherlands earned bronze.
In other events Friday, Emma Hinze of Germany gave the home crowd reason to roar by sweeping Anastasiia Voinova of Russia to win the women’s sprint. Yumi Kajihara was the surprising winner of the women’s omnium after a crash took out several top contenders. Sam Ligtlee of the Netherlands took gold in the men’s 1-kilometer time trial,
The day began with the drama in the omnium, when a crash involving several top riders shaped the event.
The field was bunched on the next-to-last lap when Kirsten Wild, the reigning world champion riding third, moved up from her line and created a domino-effect of riders hitting the deck. Olympic champion Laura Kenny needed stitches for a cut near her eye but kept riding while Mexico’s Lizbeth Salazar had to be taken off on a stretcher.
Wild was relegated to last place among the riders that finished, essentially dashing her hopes of a repeat title.
Kajihara wound up winning the scratch race, then padded her lead by finishing second to Tatsiana Sharakova in the tempo race. The Japanese rider was third in the elimination race — U.S. rider Jennifer Valente was the second rider eliminated to take her out of medal contention — and stayed out of trouble in the points race to lock up the world title.
Letizia Paternoster of France outsprinted Poland’s Daria Pikulik on the final lap to take the silver medal.
Ligtlee posted a time of 59.495 seconds in the men’s time trial in a minor upset. Defending champion Quentin Lafargue of France got off to a bad start and did not recover, finishing second ahead of compatriot Michael D’Almeida.
The day concluded with Hinze, the latest sprinting star for Germany, beating defending champion Lee Wai Sze of Hong Kong in the best two-of-three semifinals. Voinova defeated Kelsey Mitchell of Canada to advance to the final. Lee won a matchup of the losers in consecutive races to earn the bronze medal.
That set the stage for Hinze, who already won gold as part of her nation’s sprint team. In both match races with Voinova, Hinze spent the first lap playing cat-and-mouse with her Russian rival, then dove low and into the lead. Hinze held tight to the inner sprinter’s lane and cruised across the finish line to earn the individual gold medal.